There’s been a lot of discussion within the industry about whether subscription based MMO’s are still viable in the current market, and more and more it’s starting to look like the answer is “no.” Today Bioware announced that their 7 month old MMO is shifting over to the increasingly popular free to play business model.
According to Bioware, the majority of the game’s currently existing content will be made available for free: free players will have access to the game’s 8 character classes, and will be able to level their characters up to level 50. Certain content will be restricted, but free to play players will be able to unlock restricted parts of the game via microtransactions. Current subscribers can continue to pay the game’s monthly fee in exchange for continued access to the entirety of the game and a monthly allotment of in-game credit to spend within the game’s cash shop.
The Old Republic’s switch-over to free-to-play isn’t surprising: despite a strong launch, the game’s subscription numbers quickly leveled off, and a lot of industry analysts and journalists predicted that Bioware would have to abandon the subscription based model in order to keep the game afloat. The change certainly isn’t a death knell for the game: a lot of recent MMO’s, such as Lord of the Rings Online and DC Universe Online, similarly rebranded themselves as free to play games and have managed to become very profitable since making the change. There’s a lot of experts claiming that free-to-play games are the future of the industry, and news like this certainly lends more credence to their predictions.